Bush, Class of ’ 48, always carried Yale with him
NEW HAVEN — The late President George H. W. Bush lived in Texas and Maine, held the nation’s highest office for four years and had an impact on the world — but while he moved out of New Haven decades ago, he carried Yale with him wherever he went.
Long before Bush, the nation’s 41st president, took that distinguished title, he was member of Yale University’s Class of 1948; a World War II aviator who came to Yale on the G. I. Bill. He also was captain of its baseball team and — like his father, Prescott S. Bush, and most famous son — a lifelong member of Skull & Bones, Yale’s oldest and most famous secret society.
Bush had deep family connections to Yale, according to his Yale obituary. His father, Prescott Sheldon Bush, graduated in 1917, and three siblings, four nephews, two cousins, his son President George W. Bush — who was a member of Yale’s Class of 1968 — and his granddaughter, Barbara Bush, Class of 2004, also are alumni.
“Yale has lost a loyal friend,” Yale President Peter Salovey said in a statement Saturday morning. “Throughout his lifetime, President Bush exemplified the values of service and leadership we seek to foster at Yale.
“A decorated veteran, he spent three years as a naval aviator flying combat missions over the Pacific before entering Yale,” Salovey said. “Once here, he distinguished himself as a student and an athlete.
“One of the great first basemen and baseball cap- tains in Yale’s history, President Bush remained an avid ‘ Bulldog,’ a fan of Yale athletics, and an especially ardent champion of our student- veterans,” Salovey said. “He set an example of dignified service to this country that will continue to inspire future generations at Yale.”
Bush, who died Friday at the age of 94, was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Barbara. He shared some of his feelings about Yale while the two were visiting for the 50th class reunion of President Bush’s class of 1948 on May 29, 1998:
‘‘ I took away an awful lot about the real business of living, about the importance of friendship, about the importance of trying to understand the world as it really is, and it’s served me in good stead all my life,’’ Bush said of his time at Yale, in a story written by former Register reporter Walt Kita. ‘‘ I will always be grateful to this institution.’’
Bush’s Yale baseball team went to two College World Series and is considered one of the best Yale has ever had.
The former president and his wife, Barbara, who died earlier this year, joined about 200 members of Yale’s Class of 1948 in the Yale Commons that day for the dedication of a portrait in Bush’s honor.
The 7- foot by 5- foot oil painting by artist Ronald Sherr shows Bush in an overcoat and red tie at the south entrance of the White House.
‘‘ In the long history of this institution there are precious few who have done more for God, and for country, and for Yale,’’ former Yale President Rich- ard C. Levin told Bush at that time. ‘‘ Thank you for living the kind of life other Yalies would do well to emulate.’’
Bush, a graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., enlisted in the U. S. Navy on his 18th birthday after the United States entered World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 6, 1941, according to his Yale obit.
After completing training, he received his commission and became the youngest naval aviator at that time. Bush flew combat operations in the Pacific theater and participated in the rescue of several fellow service members during World War II. He was shot down in an operation 500 miles from Japan and later rescued by a U. S. submarine, the obit says.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation.
Bush received an honorary discharge after Japan’s surrender in 1945 and enrolled at Yale. Like many in his class, Bush was a recipient of the G. I. Bill, and he completed his undergraduate degree in economics in an accelerated program in just two and a half years, according to his Yale obit.
The Bushes lived in New Haven for about three years, said Judith Schiff, chief research archivist at Yale.
While they were already married when they arrived in New Haven when George Bush entered Yale in the fall of 1945, “he started his married life in New Haven,” Schiff said.
At first, they lived in a “tiny, adorable” apartment on Chapel Street, according to Bush’s Yale obit, quoting Barbara Bush’s memoir.
But they had to leave that apartment, at Chapel and Park streets next to what is now The Study hotel, after the birth of their son George W. Bush, said Schiff.
In essence, “they were evicted when the landlord heard they were going to have a baby in addition to a dog,” she said.
Then the Bushes moved to a house at Whitney Avenue and Edwards Street, with an address on Edwards, and remained there until space was available in a converted mansion next to the Yale president’s house on Hillhouse Avenue — a boarding house at the time for married couples who were students.
The building now houses Yale’s Economics Department, but at the time it was home to 10 Yale couples and their children, who shared the kitchen and bathrooms, Schiff said.
Throughout his long career as a public servant, Bush “certainly was the embodiment of the socalled ‘ Yale spirit’ of hard work and public service, predicated on the idea “that your Yale education only begins when you graduate,” Schiff said.
For Bush, “it was always country over party,” although “being a good father” trumped all, she said.
“He set a great model of behavior for everybody,” Schiff said. “He was Phi Beta Kappa and the captain of the baseball team,” as well as a decorated veteran, she said.
State Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, R- North Haven, said in a release that Bush “was a man of honor, grace and class.”
“He was humble, compassionate and he loved his country,” he said in the release. “His was a life dedicated to serving others. He inspired us by emphasizing how we can lift each other up through some form of community service. How proud we all are of his Connecticut connection.”